This is the most scientific profession in the wine world. The word oenologist literally means “he who possesses the science of wine”.
After graduating with a state-recognised master's degree, following three years studying biology, agronomy or chemistry, oenologists can practice their profession in an independent winery, but also a co-operative winery, a marketing board or specialised laboratories, unless they prefer to lend their skills to teaching and research.
Those who choose to work out in the field sometimes offer their services to several estates at the same time: they are then referred to as consultant oenologists. Whether they work as freelancers or employees, the work remains the same. As scientists, their work in the vineyard begins in the spring when they carefully select the grape varieties with the head viticulturalist. They also have a say in the agri-chemicals used, as well as on the date of the harvest. Once the grapes have entered the winery and been fermented, they start to work on the blends and determine the proportion of each grape variety after several tastings.
Their highly trained palate allows them to detect the slightest defects. They use it to identify the most promising wines which they then set aside as the winery’s most age-worthy bottlings. They repeat this process throughout ageing to ensure that the quality remains constant. Once the bottles are ready to be sold, they provide support for the sales representatives by giving them precise information on the character of the wines. Their knowledge of grape varieties and appellations also allows them to work with the general public, for whom they can curate oenology courses.
From the way a wine is served and tasted to the difference between two appellations, the wine world has few secrets for the oenologist.
By Alexandra Reveillon